The last time we saw the Golden State Warriors in their home environs, they lost to the Orlando Magic and looked pretty unimpressive in the process. Terrible, in fact. They made Glen Davis look like a guy with Karl Malone’s game and Charles Barkley’s late-career physique. I wondered if Golden State would come back with three victories on the road, let alone six.
The Warriors didn’t look much better in their first home game in two weeks against the New Orleans Hornets. But the Hornets are a worse team and a far better matchup for these Warriors, who might have learned a thing or two about winning games since we last saw them, specifically games where they don’t play all that well.
I asked Mark Jackson about the Warriors’ trouble from the perimeter — they shot 21-for-37 (56.8%) in the paint and 13-for-41 (31.7%) everywhere else — and whether it was just an expected result after coming off an abnormally long road trip. Jackson dropped his trademark “no excuse basketball team” line on me, as I should’ve expected. Maybe I’m rusty too, and I’m not talking about the Chronicle’s Simmons.
David Lee said that the hardest games to play are the first ones at home after being away a while and re-acclimating back to West Coast time. While he qualified that by saying “these aren’t excuses,” it’s hard to blame the Warriors for allowing themselves a little break, subconsciously at least. Besides Anthony Davis’ potential and hopes that the talented Austin Rivers can fix the clumsy release on his jumper, the Hornets don’t have a lot going for them besides a possible hilarious name change to the Pelicans.
The important thing is the Warriors won. Yes, the game stayed too close for too long against a team with lottery aspirations playing thousands of miles from home. Yet Golden State always looked like the more confident and savvy team … even after the Hornets came back and tied the game in the final quarter.
In the Jackson video above, he talked about how winning these types of games is what “good teams” do. Good teams win games ugly from time to time, and they don’t get too impressed with themselves afterward. And that’s what I saw in the locker room. Not to get too much into psychological assumptions, but it’s been fascinating in a short time to see this team’s public reactions after their last two home games. They lost to Orlando, and they didn’t shrug it off. They beat New Orleans, but not quite as soundly as they should have. They didn’t shrug that off either.
“When things are kind of slipping away, we still have the wherewithal to dig deep and make plays in the fourth quarter,” Stephen Curry said. “But over the course of the season you have to have some kind of finishing punch … When you have the opportunity to make that knockout punch in the third, beginning of the fourth, you have to make that happen.”
They “made it happen” in Atlanta; they didn’t at home. Will they do it in Sacramento, where they lost their third game of the season? Here’s what Curry said when I asked him about that, and whether the Warriors are a different team than they were on Nov. 5.
“We’re a more confident team now,” Curry said.
Draymond Green only played four minutes in Sacramento, and it was interesting watching Green get fourth quarter minutes (and rebounds) against the team with Dominic McGuire, who played a similar role for a much worse Warriors team last year. Besides opportunistic layups, Green doesn’t bring much offensively. But he’s averaging 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes in December and plays better defense than one could ever rightfully expect from a rookie.
Harrison Barnes’ game ebbs and flows, while Green always provides something Jackson can count on. It’s going to be tough to keep him out of end-game lineups as long as he keeps playing like this, and if he can figure out how to shoot during NBA games anytime soon (he made 36% of his threes in college), who knows what the future holds.
Jarrett Jack’s ability to draw fouls was the offensive equivalent of what Green gave the Warriors late on defense — at least 25% of the Warriors’ confidence this season comes from Jack, who has more swagger than sneakers (and Jack has more sneakers than Sheik). His addition, along with Carl Landry’s, continue to look brilliant so far.
One last video, this one from when I asked Lee about the home crowd’s reaction when the P.A. announcer mentioned his Western Conference Player of the Week nod. I’m not sure he ever really understood my question (I think he wanted to make sure he deflected any sort of individual notice), but he had some nice things to say about the fans and ducked out quick when my buddy Ethan Sherwood Strauss asked him about the team chanting “M-V-P” while he shot free throws late in the game.